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Nearly four decades since starting a renowned cookie empire, Wally Amos is poised to launch a company using the original recipe that made him Famous Amos.

The 75-year-old Waikiki resident, who lost ownership in the 1980s of his namesake company and subsequent use of his moniker and image, has relentlessly reinvented himself nearly a half-dozen times over the past 37 years with a string of ventures involving more cookies and diversifying into muffins.

This time around, the older and wiser serial entrepreneur is preparing to launch WAMOS (rhymes with “famous”) with the tag line, “From the recipe that made me (fÄ�’– mÅ­s).”

Amos recently solicited feedback from his 5,000 Facebook friends on re-entering the packaged foods business with three flavors from his original recipe: chocolate chip, butterscotch chip pecans and chocolate chip pecans. The difference, he said, is that Famous Amos, the business he established in 1975, currently uses a different recipe from his original creation.

Amos says he has learned from his previous successes and failures, the most important lesson of which is to never give up.

cookies2“That’s what I represent to people — someone who will not give up,” he said. “I lost a cookie company, got sued for ownership of my name, then I started more cookie companies. Can you imagine a guy who has been knocked down so many times but never has been knocked out? A guy who has lost so many companies but keeps coming back? A guy who this year — when people are retiring at 60 and 65 and I’m going to be 76 years old July 1 — will be right in the thick of starting a cookie company? You’re not supposed to give up. We’re created to persevere.”

Amos, who also is a literacy advocate, inspirational author and motivational speaker, said the online response to his idea has been overwhelming. More than 450 Facebook friends “liked” his post a week ago about re-entering the cookie business.

“If you’re going to be an entrepreneur in the first place, you kind of have to have a disproportionate amount of optimism because you have to believe it’s going to work,” said Susan Yamada, executive director of the University of Hawaii’s Pacific Asian Center for Entrepreneurship. “It’s a big benefit for him that he is who he is and he has his reputation, but is it going to guarantee success of another cookie company? No. He’s going to need to execute on a business model for the 21st century. His was the 20th-century business model with Famous Amos; now it’s 30 years later.”

Realizing that the market has significantly changed from his first cookie venture, Amos said he is much more prepared today and ready to listen to the business team he’s put in place.

“I’ve changed my attitude,” Amos said. “Because I was so successful with Famous Amos, I thought I had all the answers so I wasn’t really listening to people who were working with me who knew the answers. But I really didn’t know what I was doing.”

Everything is slowly coming full circle with a team of business experts, including an associate he worked with while running Famous Amos, and securing the final round of investments totaling $750,000. Amos said his role in the company will be to create exposure and promote the product.

The team is designing a definitive business model and marketing approach but has determined that the use of Internet sales will be a part of the new structure, said Dwight O’Neill, a longtime friend and business consultant.

“He knows he’s standing in a new environment,” O’Neill said. “When he opened his first store, the rhyme or reason of opening a store was location so that you can get traffic. Now traffic is on the Internet, so you have to adapt to it.”

Amos, a former talent agent at the William Morris Agency, started his own show business company in Los Angeles and in 1970 began leaving cookies as calling cards with his clients and friends. With the financial help of singers Helen Reddy and Marvin Gaye, Amos opened his first cookie store in 1975 on Sunset Boulevard. He moved to Hawaii two years later and opened a store on Keeaumoku Street and subsequently other stores throughout Oahu.

In later years the company began running into financial trouble, and Amos gradually lost portions of his ownership and the right to use the names “Famous Amos” and “Wally Amos” in connection with food products. In the 1980s and 1990s, the Famous Amos company changed hands at least five times.

Amos has launched other cookie businesses in the following years, including Uncle Noname, Aunt Della’s Cookies (named in honor of his aunt, who first baked him chocolate chip cookies), Uncle Wally’s Muffin Co. and Chip & Cookie, which lost him nearly $1 million and forced him to close two Oahu locations when the cash ran out.

Meanwhile, Amos has been active in promoting literacy throughout the country through his foundation, Read it LOUD!

WAMOS is scheduled to be operational by September, said Amos.

“The only way you can really fail is if you quit,” he said. “This is not about cookies; this is about life. I’m about inspiring people to achieve their goals and live their lives to the fullest. You’re only out when you decide that you’re out.”

Source: (c)2012 The Honolulu Star-Advertiser


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